Address In Reply


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (16:52): I rise to make my contribution to the Address in Reply and, like many who have spoken before me today on both sides of the house, compliment the Governor on his delivery of the speech. There is no need to beat around the bush: we all know that he did an excellent job delivering the government's and the Premier's speech. I also would like to put forward my personal opinion that he is an excellent governor. I thank him for his contribution to the entire state. I congratulate him on his continuing appointment and would like to make the point that he is greatly appreciated throughout all of South Australia, not just in Adelaide. He attends a lot of functions in country South Australia, and I have personally been with him in Port Augusta, Eudunda and Morgan. So, thank you to him for that.

Of course, we are making these speeches because we had the proroguing of parliament, because we have a new Premier and because we have had two by-elections, so the Premier and the government decided it was time for them to try to pretend it was a fresh start, for them to try to pretend that everything would be better and for them to try to pretend that the Rann-Foley era was over and some form of new Labor was going to improve everything for the state.

Of course, no-one is fooled by that. We all know that Premier Weatherill was in cabinet every single year and every single day for the whole of the Rann government, so he participated and supported and was in no small way a driver within that government and he contributed to all of the things that they did. It really is laughable and foolish for him to try to pretend that he is different, fresh and new.

Of course, the by-elections will not change anything, either. They will bring us two new members of parliament, and I genuinely congratulate those two people, Susan Close and Zoe Bettison, on their election. Regardless of who we are and what our political thoughts are, we all know that it is no small feat to be elected to this parliament, and they should be very proud of their achievement. Again, their coming here will not change the government. A new Premier and two new members in the Labor government will not change things at all. We will still be faced, as a state, with the same government waste and mismanagement that we have known for the last 10 years and that, no doubt, will continue under this new Premier.

Government waste and mismanagement leads directly to an increase in the cost of living for every single South Australian, particularly those people on low and middle incomes. It leads directly to an increase in the number of public servants on full pay but without a job. It leads directly to the continuation of this government's user-pays cost recovery system, which, as the member for Flinders quite rightly pointed out to me several months ago, is becoming a business model for this government. It is used as an excuse.

The government says to agencies, businesses and people who would like to access support, service and leadership by this government that, 'That is okay, but it is not coming out of general revenue anymore. That is okay, it is not coming out of the normal tax base. That is okay, but you will have to pay for it.' I understand economic rationalism and there is much of it that I agree with, but it is becoming an excuse. What it does is turn some government departments and services into organisations that can charge whatever they like, under the guise of: it is efficient user-pays cost recovery.

The questions need to be asked: do we need some of these services? Do we need to pay to regulate some of the industries and practices that take place? The answer, of course, is yes, for many, but the answer would be no for many as well. It is just an excuse to seem efficient. The government is using this process to get other people to fund things they do not want and, in many cases, do not need. So, we are not going to see any change in that.

With regard to government waste and mismanagement, one feature of the government's speech, through the Governor, was that public sector reform would be driven by an increase in ideas and creativity and rewarding risk-taking, but no decrease in numbers. I know that we have thousands and thousands of very hardworking, very capable, very good public servants supporting all of us in this state, but I also know that they are not all like that.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that their increase in ideas, their improved creativity, their reward for risk-taking will not be genuinely undertaken if their jobs are not at risk. If they can sit there on full pay with nothing to do, then why change? That is human nature. So, until that nexus is broken, until what is referred to as the waiting room or the departure lounge is addressed, the things that the Premier talks about regarding increased creativity and activity will not take place, because until people feel some pressure, some requirement to be better, to work harder, to be more innovative, it just will not happen.

To prove and to highlight what I am talking about regarding government waste and mismanagement and why we should have no expectations—and we should be under no illusion that two new members of parliament or a new Premier are going to change things—I would like to put some numbers on the record, and I have them here for Hansard if I do not speak clearly enough, but I think it is very important to get all of these numbers onto the record.

The budget for the 2009-10 year estimated that in 2010-11 we would have a budget surplus of $78 million. The 2010-11 budget estimated that we would have a deficit of $389 million in the 2010-11 year. Then, last year's 2011-12 budget showed us that we would have a deficit of $427 million. The 2009 budget estimated that in the year 2011-12 we would have a $96 million surplus. A year later, in 2010-11, for the same budget year (2011-12) they estimated a $55 million surplus. Then, a year later again, the 2011-12 budget stated that for that same year the 2011‑12 budget would finish with a $263 million deficit. Only six months later, in the Mid-Year Budget Review, concluded late last calendar year, it was estimated that we will actually finish up with a $367 million deficit.

The forecast surpluses never eventuate, and this continues. The 2009 budget forecast for the year 2012-13 that we would have a $304 million surplus. The 2010-11 budget estimated for the 2012-13 year that we would have a $216 million surplus. The 2011-12 budget estimated for the same year that we would have a 2012-13 surplus of $114 million. But guess what, six months later—surprise, surprise—the Mid-Year Budget Review tells us that actually at the end of the 2012‑13 year it will be a $453 million deficit.

This continues down to the point whereby we were expecting to get a surplus in the 2012‑13 financial year but in actual fact we are now expected to get a surplus in the 2014‑15 financial year. The reality is that people just do not believe these forecasts. We are told by the government that there is always going to be a surplus a few years down the track, but it just does not eventuate. In six months between the 2011-12 budget and the 2011-12 Mid-Year Budget Review late last calendar year, the surplus was delayed by two years. The predicted surplus was put back two years, and that surplus (the 2014-15 figure) is also now only half what it was going to be. Six months ago we were told that that was going to be a $655 million surplus. Most recently, in the Mid-Year Budget Review just a month or two ago, we were told it would be a $334 million surplus.

These numbers tell us that there is an ongoing, unavoidable pattern according to the government of predicting surpluses, but they just do not eventuate—government waste and mismanagement. Government waste and mismanagement has led us to the fact that we will have a greater than $10 billion state debt in the current forward estimates. We will have approximately a $700 million per year interest rate and, as the Leader of the Opposition often reminds people, that is about $2 million per day. That is what all South Australian taxpayers spend just to service the government debt. Government waste and mismanagement increases the cost of living for every single South Australian. Before we do another thing, we have to spend $2 million a day just to pay for the interest.

Of course, the government says that the global economy is to blame for this. The government tells us that it is not their fault: it is actually the global economy and it is Greece, the EU and all of those issues. The reality is that there are very serious economic issues overseas. There are great challenges overseas and, yes, they do have an impact on us, but this is just an excuse because the debt was entered into long before any of those overseas factors came into play. As you can see from the numbers I gave you before, we have been going down the tubes financially for quite a long time. Sure, the global economy has an impact today, but we have been heading this way for quite a long time, so it is just an excuse not to be believed. Our government overspent well before the global economy was an issue and it cannot use that as an excuse.

Government waste and mismanagement has led to the fact that the government owes hundreds of millions of dollars to private enterprise in this state. The government pays its bills late. The member for Norwood, the shadow spokesman for small business, outlined very clearly how this is not an accident. This is just taking advantage of basically big player versus small player. Small businesses cannot jump up and down. There is no pressure they can exert. There is nothing they can do. They just have to lump it, and that is dreadfully unfair on our small business community. Another example of government waste and mismanagement is that the health department, as of 12 February, still had approximately $20 million of unreconciled accounts. Nobody can say that is good management.

The new Premier's first actions: the new Premier would have us believe that things have changed, that it will all be better and that we can forget Rann and Foley, that he will lead us on and make things better under his government. His first few actions after becoming Premier included a visit to the Riverland. I give him credit for that because I tell you that the previous premier did not go there for a very long time, so I give him credit for that.

He went there in the midst of what we all understand is the very biggest issue facing the Riverland at the moment, that is, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It is one of the biggest issues facing our state and our nation right now. He went there and people were expecting some good news; they were expecting some sort of contribution; they were expecting some leadership from our new Premier but they did not get it. All we know is that the state Labor government and the federal Labor government cannot agree on what to do. This is our opportunity, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all governments to work together.

The next thing the Premier did was to visit Mount Gambier. Again, the forest sale is one of the biggest issues facing that community and it expected some good news. The Premier went down there and had nothing for them. He went down there basically on a media stunt just to say, 'Well, I'm not changing. I'm not going to do anything. I'm sorry, we're selling your forests; we don't care.' So it was hardly great leadership, hardly great government.

Another fascinating move—and I cannot figure this one out; I have no idea why any new Premier would do this—and one of his first big public decisions as a new Premier was to say that ex-premiers would get all sorts of perks. This government is going to spend approximately $200,000 over six months to support ex-premier Rann. First, it is a waste of money—government waste and mismanagement; and, secondly, I just cannot figure out the politics of that. Why would any brand-new Premier tell the public that one of his first big decisions is to provide all sorts of benefits for ex-premiers when he knows that he will be the very next ex-premier?

Another thing that confounds people whom I talk to in the city and the country is the government and the deals that it did in the Port Adelaide by-election. Everybody around the nation can look at the mess that we have federally based largely upon the deals and the operation of the joint Labor-Greens government together. I cannot imagine why anybody would think that that was going to work well in South Australia. However, it does show where the government is at. The Premier and the government will do whatever they need to do to support the Greens to get the Green preferences and to get whatever support they need from the Greens. Even without the Liberal Party running a candidate, they still had to do that. It still had to kowtow to the Greens—just the same sort of federal mess now coming to South Australia.

Another example of government mismanagement and waste and the fact that the new Premier is no different from the old premier was denying the parliament's Public Works Committee access to information about the Royal Adelaide Hospital project. Why on earth is that? This is the biggest, most important, highest profile, single infrastructure development in our state's history and parliament is not allowed to look at it. The secrecy continues from one premier to another with no change in style and no change in government.

The Port Adelaide walkway may very well be a very good project, and I am happy to say that I am not familiar with the details of that project. Was it an election commitment made by the Premier, made by the Labor government? It may well be a good thing. What I would like to highlight, though, is that this project was described by the Premier as a very important regional development project—a walkway in Port Adelaide was described as a very important regional development project.

I can tell you that that was an insult to regional South Australia. That was an absolute insult to regional South Australia. Perhaps the Premier does not really know much about regional South Australia, perhaps he just thought he had to say whatever he had to say to do his deals in Port Adelaide, but regional South Australia was insulted that their new Premier thinks that a new walkway in Port Adelaide is an important piece of regional development. In fact, the government's speech, which the Governor delivered, absolutely neglected regional South Australia entirely.

It also neglected small business, by the way: 135,000 small businesses in South Australia were not referred to and not mentioned in the speech. I also put on the record that there is not one target in the recently revised South Australian Strategic Plan that relates directly to small business either, which I think is no doubt no accident. It is not in the SASP and it is not in the opening of parliament speech, so that shows how much this government cares about small business.

The speech did not refer to the racing industry at all. This government made a very deliberate decision not to have a minister for racing anymore, to axe that position. I am a very proud shadow minister for racing. I think the government seriously undervalues and underestimates the importance of the industry to South Australia. It is one of the few sporting industries that competes, operates and runs all year round, 12 months a year, and it is also one of the largest employers in our state. It is incredibly important. I think it is a very unfortunate oversight that the new Premier has decided to ignore the racing industry, but I will do my best to fill that that void on their behalf.

I mentioned that regional South Australia was not included at all in the Premier's speech. I picked that up. I wrote it in my notes at the time, and we were talking about it in the office when I got an email from a colleague in regional South Australia, who did bit of a word search. He sent me the facts. The word 'country' was used once in the speech, and that was in reference to the official welcome to country. The word 'region' was used once in the speech, and that was in the context of 'people throughout our region and the world'.

The word 'regions' was used once, and that was in reference to 'wine regions', specifically the Barossa and McLaren Vale—very important places, but hardly representative of all regional South Australia. The word 'regional' did not pop up once in the speech. The word 'rural' did not pop up once in the speech, but the word 'city' turned up 16 times in the government's speech.

I am very happy to say here or any other place that Adelaide is an exceptionally important city. I lived here for many years. I love Adelaide, but not at the expense of regional South Australia. As I said before, the Governor knows that the state includes Adelaide and the rest of the state. The Governor knows that very well. Adelaide is very important.

I can tell you that city people appreciate the country and country people appreciate the city. We come down to Adelaide for all sorts of services, whether it is entertainment, whether it is medical, whether it seeing family and friends, all sorts of very important things. There is a very important relationship between the city and the country in South Australia, but from the government's perspective it is all one-way traffic. By way of example, in our most recent budget, which includes over 1,000 pages, two pages are devoted to regional South Australia. In Western Australia there are 80 pages devoted to regional Western Australia in their most recent budget, and I think that tells a tale.

I would like to touch on a few important issues facing regional South Australia at the moment. This is in no way a conclusive list, but it includes some of the very important issues. Regional South Australia deserves equity of service. Regional South Australia makes up approximately 25 per cent of the population of our state, but it generates approximately 30 per cent of the economic wealth of our state.

I know that it is actually even more than is currently reported because I recently found out that if you look in the ABS figures at mining, there is an enormous amount of mining income generated in the inner eastern suburbs of Adelaide. I am sure that a large part of the wealth generated in regional South Australia is not reported under regional South Australia, perhaps because there are companies with head offices or accountants or registered addresses in Adelaide. Not only are we 25 per cent of the population, 30 per cent of the economic generation in rough terms, we are even more valuable than that.

Health, education, communication, roads and police are all very important issues, and there are many more, but they are important services where regional South Australia does not get its fair share. The Murray-Darling Basin draft plan report is very important, the most important single issue facing regional South Australia at the moment.

We have had, clearly, Labor division on that issue. Clearly, the state government and the federal government, by all reports, have different views and opinions on what needs to be done there. That is a great shame. There are three main areas of the river in South Australia, and I would like to touch on that very quickly. We obviously have the Riverland, broadly described as above Lock 1 on up to the border. We have the Mid-Murray from Lock 1 down to Wellington, and we have the Lower Lakes, essentially from Wellington down to the Murray Mouth, including the Coorong. All three of those very important areas are within South Australia, and anyone who thinks it is as simple as looking at just one or two of those areas is underestimating the size of this problem. All parts of the river need to be very seriously considered in this issue.

Regarding the South-East forests, the whole issue of selling three rotations of wood from our forests—most likely to overseas interests—is alarming. As we all know, they generate approximately $44 million of income at the moment; as we also know, the need to sell these forward rotations is directly linked to the need for the government to find the $530 million it needs for the Adelaide Oval. Let me say very clearly that my opinion on the Adelaide Oval has not changed. It is a wonderful project and an attractive project, something that every South Australian—city, country or outback based—would no doubt like to have in our state, but we just cannot afford it. Compared to all the other priorities that we have to spend state money on, it is not at the top of the list. It is a nice thing to have, a wonderful thing to have, but we cannot afford it and we should not be spending our money on it at this point in time.

Another very important issue for regional South Australia is Aboriginal affairs; very, very important. Reconciliation and improvement of opportunity and quality of life for Aboriginal people will not be improved if people are divided. I believe in some forms of positive discrimination to achieve specific goals in specific, finite periods of time, but we will never be able to say we have achieved enough for any group of people until both negative and positive discrimination are not an issue. They both keep people divided.

Food production was a key feature of the government's speech, and I congratulate it on that; it is very, very important. Clean and green is very important, there is no doubt about that, but we must have access to the latest and world's best technology in our farming industries. We absolutely must have that. Some of the technology is already in place. We have some of the most efficient farmers in the world in South Australia and no doubt we will have others in other industries as time goes on, but there has to be a balance between clean and green and the very best and most modern available technology. We can never forget that.

I would like to quickly touch on the seawater greenhouse project, a wonderful project near Port Augusta where solar power is used to desalinate saltwater from the gulf to grow vegetables in a very large greenhouse. It is 2,000 square metres, but it is actually just a pilot plant. It is going very well and is a wonderful example, in the electorate of Stuart, of cutting-edge clean, green food production.

Of course, food production is very important in the outback. Our outback pastoralists produce an enormous amount of food, primarily through beef and lamb, but of course wool is also very important. I would like to say that in the rush to try to make up for government waste and mismanagement it appears that the government is trying, in many cases, to more than double pastoral rents at the moment. The Pastoral Board has not increased its formulas, the Pastoral Board has not changed its calculations. Most active pastoral leases incur a 2.7 per cent rent on the unimproved capital value, but it seems that years after values have declined—I think they reached their peak in 2007—the government is going back and revaluing pastoral leases. I suspect this is in an effort to try to increase those rents at a time when it desperately needs money.

Outback people are, of course, custodians of our environment in many cases, and I think people do not give enough credit, primarily to pastoralists but to lots of other people working in our outback, for the work, effort and conscientious way they go about protecting our environment. If we did not have pastoralists we would have more feral animals and we would have more pests and weeds in our outback areas.

Of course, communities are very important. There are approximately 30 communities in outback South Australia, ranging from Penong in the far west to Cockburn in the far east of outback South Australia, including very large communities like Coober Pedy and Roxby Downs. They all play an important part. In relation to resources in the outback, we all know, and I am sure both sides of the house agree, that resources and mining will be our greatest contribution in coming years to improving our financial situation. Whether it is food, fibre, minerals or petroleum, exports primarily from outback areas of South Australia will lead us forward into the future.

On that point, fly-in fly-out opportunities are marvellous opportunities. I really do ask the government to do everything it possibly can to make sure that regional communities in South Australia get the biggest bite of this. We do not want people flying in primarily from Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane into new mining ventures.

I would just like to say that infrastructure plays a very large part. Yorkeys Crossing in the electorate of Stuart is a critical issue. BHP is only one of the mining expansions that we will see in our time. BHP has got their deal through parliament. They have all the support that they need from state, federal and territory governments. It is now beholden upon all of us—MPs, communities, businesses, government agencies, everybody—to make sure that BHP is held accountable. They now need to be held accountable for every single commitment that they made in their Olympic Dam expansion at Roxby Downs. They must actually do all the things they promised they will do. I have no suspicion that they will try and shirk their responsibilities, but we must all make sure that we are vigilant in that area, too.

I would like to wind up by saying that one of the things that really hit me in the government's speech was that they take a view for very long-term decisions. We all know in all of our working lives that short, medium and long-term decisions are important and the long term should not be forgotten. The reality is that it is not just decisions but also actions that must be taken to ensure our future.

The government decided to have budget surpluses, but they did not eventuate. The government decided to build a prison at Murray Bridge but did not do it and it cost us $10 million. The government decided to develop Port Adelaide via Newport Quays but did not do it and it cost us about $6 million. The government decided to renew Marathon's exploration licence at Arkaroola but did not do it and it cost us $5 million.


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